Memorial Day weekend is an appropriate time to bid farewell to movies like "Police Academy 2," "Moving Violations" and "Rustlers' Rhapsody," because those films should quickly join the ranks of the cinematically deceased. It's time for the studios to quietly retire the little fellows and bring out the heavy-hitting summer movies, the first of which made its debut yesterday.
There's one in every crowd -- a movie that opens on a Wednesday instead of the traditional Friday in an attempt to get a jump on the competition -- and this year it's Sylvester Stallone's "Rambo: First Blood Part II," which set a record by opening yesterday in 2,074 theaters. True to form for Stallone, it has picked up mostly negative reviews, but if those hurt the muscle-bound screen writer/star -- or if he's still smarting from the overzealous punching that sent him from the set of "Rocky IV" into the hospital -- he can find comfort in one rave. It came from the movie critics at Soldier of Fortune magazine, the mercenaries' handbook and a publication not usually concerned with the arts.
Soldier of Fortune was granted an advance look at the further adventures of Stallone's marauding Vietnam vet, who in this installment returns to Vietnam on a secret suicide mission. A cover story in the new issue lavishly praises the film as the first accurate look at Vietnam vets, which in this case means that it's accurate as far as weaponry goes. Still, Soldier of Fortune has one major complaint: Stallone's character shoots exploding arrows, and the magazine's armament experts say that's a pretty serious inaccuracy . . .
"Rambo's" chief competitors this week are "Brewster's Millions," the Richard Pryor/John Candy comedy that previewed so poorly that Universal didn't even take out the near-mandatory ads in the Sunday Los Angeles Times and New York Times, and "A View to a Kill," which might have built up better industry word-of-mouth if Grace Jones hadn't been 90 minutes late to a screening she was hosting at MGM over the weekend -- delaying the movie until many guests decided to skip it in favor of the "postscreening" party . . . "Rocky IV," by the way, may be the last time Stallone trots out his Rocky Balboa character -- and it'll definitely be the final go-round for Carl Weathers, who plays Rocky's foe-turned-ally Apollo Creed. Stallone told the L.A. Times that the new film finds Rocky coming out of retirement to fight a Soviet boxer after the big Red bruiser climbs into a ring with Creed and kills him . . .
A few weeks back, the hit production team of Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer ("Flashdance," "Beverly Hills Cop") announced that their next film would be "Top Gun," a drama about the Navy's trainee fighter pilots, starring Tom Cruise. At the time, they also said they had their sights set on using Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the U.S.A." album as the main background music -- a record that, contrary to its title, has next to nothing to do with the apparent tone of the duo's patriotic tale of the best and the brightest. "Top Gun" has since gone through a complete rewrite from Texas screenwriter Warren Skaaren -- who was able to complete the chore after Paramount executive Dawn Steele called Disney and Warner Bros. and had them both delay the deadlines on their own Skaaren screenplays. And a prime contender for the role of Cruise's leading lady is reportedly none other than Julianne Phillips, an Oregon-born model and actress better known these past couple of weeks as Mrs. Bruce Springsteen . . .
"The Slugger's Wife" was a major commercial and artistic disaster, but you'd think Neil Simon still has some clout. After all, Eddie Murphy personally commissioned a script from Simon not long ago. But a Simon retrospective due to run for nearly three months at an L.A. theater has been canceled after only half its run. The reason, says a Laemmle Theaters press release: "lack of public interest" . . .
In "Death Wish III," Charles Bronson enlists the aid of a whole neighborhood in his battle with marauding New York hoodlums. He won't, however, have the help of New York's best-known real-life vigilante. Director Michael Winner recently confirmed that Cannon Films chief Menahem Golan asked him to give Bernhard Goetz a small role in the film, but says he refused. "Death Wish III" is, however, being rush-released to coincide with Goetz's trial this fall.